Ashes 2013: England’s Ian Bell finally coming of age
England batsman Ian Bell appears to be finally coming of age after his successive series ton on Thursday, writes Harry Kemble
For much of Ian Bell’s Test career accusations of inconsistency have lingered over him.
For all his textbook cover drives, trademark pulls and variety of sweep shots, Bell has often failed to possess the necessary mental fortitude to become the real mainstay of England’s batting line-up.
On Thursday, that all changed. The mercurial talent for only the second time in his career notched consecutive centuries in a series – the last time he achieved such a feat was against Pakistan, seven years ago.
At 31, Bell has, we hope, finally come of age. Yes, his 109 at Lord’s was his 19th Test ton in 90 matches – a record that belies inconsistency – but it was the manner in which he got his runs on Thursday.
Coming in at 28 for three, Bell steadied the ship, putting away the flash shots that have often left him publically hung, drawn and quartered.
Remember Ahmedabad? England were in chaos on 69 for four and he took it upon himself to dance down the wicket and thoughtlessly chipped the ball to mid-off.
On Thursday, Bell took on the responsibility admirably of overseeing the recovery; when he was out England had moved to 271.
Bell shared stands of 99 with Jonathan Trott – England’s normal go-to guy for any rescue operation – and then a fluent 144-run partnership with Jonny Bairstow that put Australia on the back foot.
If Bell had not lost his wicket to Steve Smith’s part-time leg-spin, he would have been lauded as England’s hero for the day. Sadly for him he fell victim to a perfect leg-break but still his good work was not forgotten.
Bell has overcome his critics repeatedly in his career but never with the same dismissiveness as one of his crisp cover drives. He has often done it episodically.
In 2008, there were murmurings Bell would only score big when the bowling attack had already been flayed by another England batsman, higher up the order.
He overcame this when he hit 78 to help England draw at Cape Town – 21 innings after the initial accusation had come about.
Bell’s two centuries at Trent Bridge and Lord’s have displayed how he has matured as player.
If he can continue with this new approach, he could begin to break the records many anticipated he would when he broke onto the scene as a preciously talented 16-year-old.
His ton at Trent Bridge was gritty on a slow track. He was restrained painstakingly compiling 109 off 267 balls helping the tail wag to 375.
Here at Lord’s, he showed more of his natural flair but coupled it with a solid defence and certain reliability that his teammates have been craving from him in recent years.
In the build up to this match, Bell spoke of the need to win the respect of your peers in the dressing room above all else during your career – at Lord’s he finally achieved this.